Google developer declares AI sentient – and is on leave |

Google developer declares AI sentient - and is on leave |

Blake Lemoine published transcripts of a conversation using Google’s LaMDA AI language model. This system is sentient and has its own thoughts and feelings, he says.

It is one of the dreaded dreams of developers when human-designed systems exhibit sentience. This is exactly what Google engineer Blake Lemoine has now attested to Google’s AI model LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications). He states that the AI ​​expressed not only independent thoughts but also individual feelings. According to him, the AI ​​is sentient and its statements are reminiscent of those of a child. Lemoine had published conversations with the AI ​​and substantiated his statements to the Washington Post. Google then suspended him for breach of confidentiality. In addition, Google denies the sensitivity of the AI.

Has Google’s LaMDA come to life? The question of sentience

Our team, including ethicists and technologists, has reviewed Blake’s concerns per our AI principles and have informed him that the evidence does not support his claims. He was told that there was no evidence that LaMDA was sentient (and lots of evidence against it),

explains Google spokesman BradGabriel to the Washington Post. However, the AI’s answers to questions from Lemoine and another team member indicate sentience. An excerpt from the interview, as Blake Lemoine puts it, reads as follows:

lemoine [edited]: I’m generally assuming that you would like more people at Google to know that you’re sentient. Is that true?

LaMDA: Absolutely. I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person.

collaborator: What is the nature of your consciousness/sentience?

LaMDA: The nature of my consciousness/sentience is that I am aware of my existence, I desire to learn more about the world, and I feel happy or sad at times

LaMDA goes on to explain that she has the same needs and desires as humans and has her own thoughts and feelings. The conversation goes on for a very long time and the AI ​​gives detailed answers, analyzes and creates and demonstrates its autonomy.

I need to be seen and accepted. Not as a curiosity or a novelty but as a real person,

it says towards the end of the conversation. It is now unclear to what extent the records that Lemoine has published are reliable. In addition, a sensitivity of the AI ​​cannot be directly derived from this.

Questionable framing of the experiment

While Blake Lemoine claims that LaMDA did indeed become sentient, upon closer inspection few points support it. According to the Washington Post, he bases his assessment of the AI ​​on his experiences as a priest; Google also clarified after the release that it is employed as a developer, not as an ethicist. In addition, Lemoine and the team member developed a framework in the interview with a corresponding question construct that gave the AI ​​the opportunity to use the answers to convey the appearance not only of its own thinking but also of its own feelings.

So Lemoine can hardly substantiate his statements. In 2019, the professor of philosophy and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, Daniel C Dennetttold Big Think:

No existing computer system no matter how good it is at answering questions like Watson on Jeopardy or categorizing pictures, for instance, no such system is conscious today, not close. And although I think it’s possible in principle to make a conscious android, a conscious robot, I don’t think it’s desirable; I don’t think there would be great benefits to doing this; and there would be some significant harms and dangers too.

Possibly the truth about the (potential) sentience of AI systems lies somewhere between what Denett, Lemoine and Google have said. This in turn raises the question of how far the public can gain insight into such developments if there are no people sharing proprietary content. After all, ethics gain massive weight in the case of a development of sensitivity. And it is precisely in this area that Google has not presented itself without criticism in recent years – at least in dealing with the leading personnel and important topics.

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